This Week in Business History- Episode 29

“Stan Lee didn’t want to be like all of the rest. He wanted to stand out – – and be himself, letting his pioneering talent shine. In a pivotal career decision, at the urging of his wife, he wrote a comic like he himself wanted to read, bringing the characters to life, making superheroes relatable with their human emotions and weaknesses.”

-Scott Luton, Host, This Week in Business History


In this episode of This Week in Business History, host Scott W. Luton explores the origin story of one Stanley Martin Lieber, better known to the world as Stan Lee. From modest beginnings in New York City to successfully revolutionizing the comic book industry on a number of fronts, “Smilin’ Stan” offers quite a story, driven by following his passion in life. And doing things his way.


Scott Luton (00:12):

Good morning, Scott Luton here with you on this edition of this week in business history. Welcome to today’s show on this program, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming. We’ll take a look back at the upcoming week, and then we share some of the most relevant events and milestones from years past, of course, mostly business focused with a little dab of global supply chain. And occasionally we might just throw in a good story outside of our primary realm. So I invite you to join me on this. Look back in history to identify some of the most significant leaders, companies, innovations, and perhaps lessons learned in our collective business journey. Now let’s dive in to this week in business history.

Scott Luton (01:10):

Hello, and thanks for joining us. I’m your host Scott Luton. And today on this edition of this week in business history, we’re focused on the week of December 28th. Hey, thanks so much for listening to the show today, we’re going to be diving into the story of the man who revolutionized an industry and be at books, television shows or movies. You probably are more familiar with his work than you think you are. We’re going to be sharing the journey of Stan Lee, the Titan of comic books in massive driving force of both Marvel comics and the industry in and of itself. Stay tuned and thanks again for joining us here today. On this week in business history, powered by our team here at supply chain. Now Stanley Martin Lieber, better known as Stan Lee was born December 28th, 1922 in New York city to Romanian immigrant parents. And he’d grow up primarily in Harlem and the Bronx.

Scott Luton (02:09):

The man that would become a Titan in the world of superhero comics in multimedia. Well, he was born into a family of modest means Stan’s father Jack Leiber was a professional dress cutter, but he didn’t work all that much after the great depression. In fact, when Stan was in his teens, he and his brother, Larry Lieber would share the one bedroom in the one bedroom apartment that their family was living in and his parents would sleep on a foldout couch amongst stand’s early influences were Errol Flynn and William Shakespeare. Although he graduated high school wanting to be a novelist. Lee was hired as an office assistant at timely comics in 1939 at the age of 16, making $8 a week timely probably doesn’t ring a bell for you, but it would become Marvel comics. In 1961, Stan would barely complete odd jobs in his new role.

Scott Luton (03:09):

Fill the inkwells for the artists, grab the team’s lunch top off coffees, maybe some proofreading, et cetera. In 1941, he made his comic book debut with what would be one of timely comics, biggest early hits captain America foils the traders revenge where the pseudonym Stan Lee was used for the first time. Stan was promoted to editor in 1942. He had, by this time written a wide variety of comic book scripts. Yeah, under the name Stanley a play on his first name Stanley a name he’d adopt eventually as his legal name during the 1940s and fifties. When Tom Lee comics was enduring financial hardship, Lee created several comic book series, the witness, the destroyer, Jack Frost, and black Marvel. During this time, Lee joined the army signal Corps and worked to repair communications. He later wrote field manuals and military slogans in the Army’s training film division.

Scott Luton (04:14):

Stan Lee would work with some soon to be famous soldiers in the army, such as three time Academy award winning director, Frank Capra, and Theodore gazelle, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss. He kept his editor job at Tom Lee while in the army by receiving letters as to what content was needed that week producing that content and mailing it back in 1940. After serving in the army, he went back full time at timely comics, but times were tough as a comic book industry. And it’s busy. This was in the doldrums at the time, says author, Shawn, how in a New York post article from 2018 quote, Stan Lee in the 1950s was pretty much running the show by himself in a corner office because the industry had mostly collapsed in quote not long after separating from the army and returning the timely comics full time, Stanley wanted to quit.

Scott Luton (05:15):

He had become significantly discouraged by being directed, to imitate other publishers with crime, Western and horror stories. Stanley didn’t want it to be like all the rest he wanted to stand out and be himself letting his pioneering talent shine in the pivotal career decision. At the urging of his wife, he wrote a comic like he himself wanted to read bringing the characters alive, making superheroes relatable with their human emotions and weaknesses. Having a personal involvement with the characters was groundbreaking for comics at the time in 1961, Lee and artists Jack created the fantastic four about four astronauts who would gain superpowers after a cosmic incident with this, everything changed. The fantastic four was born out of a bit of benchmarking the competition in the late fifties and early sixties, national periodical publications, which was the precursor to DC comics was doing well with the justice league where teams of superheroes actively work together to defeat villains.

Scott Luton (06:28):

So that’s what helped Lee and Kirby develop the fantastic four, a quartet of superheroes that worked well together, but also had their own strengths and weaknesses. Hey, don’t we all, they even began receiving fan mail for this really a first time. The fantastic four made both Lee and the company, which now was the newly renamed Marvel comics, a phenomenal success in the comics world. Needless to say, Stanley did not quit, but rather he listened to his wife’s game, changing advice and took his writing in a whole new direction, greatly impacting and changing the comic book industry as he did. So in 1962, Lee and his brother, Larry Lieber, along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, where they’d launched several iconic characters, including Spiderman, ant, man, the Hulk and Thor. And if you’ve been paying any attention to move theaters, at least on a pre pandemic basis, you’d notice that those characters are not just still with us today, but they’re thriving and bringing audiences in droves, aside from all of the artistic impacts that Stan Lee made, he also developed proven processes.

Scott Luton (07:41):

In fact, Lee Kirby and Ditko created a collaborative process that became known as the Marvel method. This approach allowed artists more input on story plotting and allowed Marvel to produce massive amounts of content. In a nutshell, Stan Lee would give basic story outlines to company artists who would then be expected to come back to him with fully drawn comic book pages. Stan Lee would then fill the pages with texts and the story itself, which took advantage of one of his greatest talents. Lee’s ability to engage the reader in his storytelling. This ability fueled his appeal to his readership community and its growth. What also caught on was Stanley’s catch phrases, which were quickly embraced and wildly used. He later said that some of his sign-offs such as hang loose face front and nuff said were constantly being copied by other writers. He wanted something unique that other writers would not know the meaning of know the spelling of, or be tempted to copy his catchphrase Excelsior, which is Latin for ever upward became that phrase quote, upward and onward to greater glory in quote is the way Lee himself would later explain the term in a tweet in 1966, Ditko left Marvel and John Romita, Sr became Lee’s collaborator.

Scott Luton (09:11):

The stories became as focused on the social in college lives of the characters as the superheroes adventures topics such as the Vietnam war political elections and student activism were addressed. Stanley once said, quote, let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But unlike a team of costume supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot or zap from a Ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them, to reveal them for their insidious evils. They really are in quote, Robbie Robertson was one of the first African-American characters in comics to play a serious supporting role in the amazing Spiderman number 51, which came out in August, 1967 in the 1980s, Stan Lee began a journey that would be one of his greatest legacies, a ceaseless obsession for convincing Hollywood, that it needed to make movies out of comic book superheroes.

Scott Luton (10:19):

What was that breakthrough film that opened the door far and wide for comics to hit the silver screen? Well, it certainly was not Howard. The duck for the industry. You could claim 1980 nines. Batman was that movie, arguably at least for Marvel comics, it was a 1998 movie hit blade, starring Wesley Snipes that gave Stanley and the Marvel team, the breakthrough they needed. The movie was a commercial success and spawned two sequels ever since there has been a seemingly steady stream of comic book heroes brought to life at the movie theater, which took years of Hollywood lobbying by the industry and especially Stan Lee, who certainly has become bigger than life attesting to his pop culture status. Stan Lee was the answer on a recent jeopardy question quote, not an actor. This man who died in 2018 appeared briefly in some 40 mainly action films with a combined $30 billion in worldwide gross in quote, those appearances.

Scott Luton (11:26):

You bet those famous cameos, the cameos that Stanley made became popular in 1961 in a comic book, the fantastic four, number 10, where both Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby are featured on the cover of the 12 cent comic book, as well as being introduced as characters in the story, the fans loved it. It made them feel as if they were all friends or sharing in a little fun. The cameos then continued through TV, video games and films with Avengers in game marking Stanley’s last cameo appearance. Roy Thomas Lee’s successor at Marvel stated that Lee got a kick out of doing cameos more than anything else. Lee was nicknamed smile and Stan and Stan, the man, and he continued to rise up through the ranks at Marvel, eventually becoming publisher and editorial director. Following a 60 year career at Marvel. Lee was involved in other ventures, such as a series of competitor DC comics, where he re-imagined such DC superheroes as Batman and wonder woman.

Scott Luton (12:38):

He was involved with publishing graphic novels, merchandising, branding, building an entertainment network, and even had an action figure made out of him. He earned numerous awards, including the national endowment for the arts national medal of arts in 2008 by president George W. Bush Stan’s passion project. The Stanley foundation focuses on education and literacy in arts programs, promoting life skills that inspire the superhero mindset. Stan believed in using the comment book, not just for kids, but to promote literacy, increased vocabulary and discuss issues of the day. He said that any child who grows up literate, unable to read and write, or even semi-literate can be considered handicapped and that every young person needs every possible advantage to even the competitive playing field, a superhero for so much good. And certainly for the comic book industry Stanley died on November 12th, 2018, six weeks before his 96th birthday in Los Angeles, California.

Scott Luton (13:45):

Hey, we’re going to wrap on this wonderful quote from Stanley who seemingly lived it, quote, another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s wellbeing and will go out of his or her way to help them. Even if there is no chance of a reward, that person who helps others simply because it should or must be done. And because it is the right thing to do is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero in quote, indeed, rest in peace. One Stanley Martin Lieber, forever known around the world as the one and only Stanley here in our home. You’ll find one of his biggest fans and my son, Ben, boom, boom. This one’s for you Excelsior. Well, that just about wraps up this edition of this week in business history. Those were some of the stories that stood out to us, but what do you think find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and share your comments there.

Scott Luton (14:42):

We’re here to listen and a big, special thanks to Deb [inaudible] who has provided excellent research for the series on that note, thanks to you. Our listener for tuning into the show each week, we wish you the happiest of holiday seasons Merry Christmas and certainly happy new year. We’re all glad I’m sure that 2021 is finally upon us. Be sure to check out a wide variety of industry thought friendly reminder. You can find this week in business history, wherever you get your podcasts from and be sure to tell us what you think we’d love to earn your review on behalf of the entire team here at this week in business history and certainly supply chain. Now this is Scott Luton wishing all of our listeners, nothing but the best. Hey, do good. Give forward. Be the change that’s needed. And on that note, we’ll see next time here on this week in business history.

Speaker 1 (15:34):

Thanks your buddy.

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


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